An Interview with Michael Acton-Smith: Calm.com Meditation app Founder
2 years ago
Meditation. Science has proven it increases immunity, decreases pain, increases positive thinking, decreases depression, increases social connection and emotional intelligence, and decreases anxiety and stress. It also makes you more compassionate, feel less lonely, and improves your ability to regulate your emotions.
So meditation is pretty good.
To those who know me, it’s probably no surprise that I meditate, and moving in to my final semester at university, full of deadlines and uncertainty, I suspect I’ll be doing a lot more of it.
The ‘brand image’ is evolving but some still see meditation as an activity that involves sitting crossed-legged, robed, chanting in some funny, foreign language. Far from being annoyingly metaphysical, one application – Calm – is setting out to break the misconception.
I had a chat with Michael Acton Smith, one of Calm’s founding pair, to find out more…
Michael, where did the inspiration for Calm come from?
Alex Tew, my co-founder, has been a life long meditator. I was initially dubious as I thought there were religious and ‘woo woo’ connotations but as I researched more I began to appreciate the science behind it.
Calm is about breaking down the misconceptions of meditation and about making it more relatable. We want to demystify this valuable practice and make it accessible and understandable to all.
A few years ago we had the chance to buy the Calm.com domain and that was the first step in creating an exciting and important new brand. We felt there is an awakening in the West of people who want to understand and develop their minds.
Calm's audience is ‘anyone with a mind’, and our mission is to make the world a happier and healthier place.
And how is that mission progressing?
Very well. We have over 4 million downloads and are adding about 10,000 new users every day. The feedback we get from users is awe-inspiring and humbling.
We have many plans to expand the brand and bring Calm into all aspects of someone’s life, but the app is the heart of the business. Some ideas include Virtual Reality, clothing, music, and community events around the world.
Lots of meditation practitioners talk about disconnecting from technology and re-connecting to people and nature. Is there an irony in that? You are an app start-up, after-all...
These devices we carry with us everywhere are super powerful and valuable but we need to learn to become masters of them rather than slaves. For many people their relationship with their phone is mindless and it’s causing a great deal of stress, distraction and anxiety in the world.
I don’t feel being a technological company has hindered Calm’s success. There are 2 billion smartphones in the world and it is the smartest way to connect with a huge audience. The technology is not at fault it is our relationship with it that matters.
And what does meditation, and Calm, mean to you, Michael?
I started meditating a few years ago and I have observed many benefits in my life. When I discover something I’m passionate about I love turning it into a business and sharing it with the world. Calm is a very exciting journey that I believe will not only be a successful business but more importantly will help bring a little more peace, perspective and equanimity into the world.